(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 22, 2001
Indo-Pak Peoples Solidarity Conference
Message of Peace is Loud & Clear
IT took three days for the leaders of India and Pakistan to announce that their talks were deadlocked. But it took just a few hours for over 300 representatives of the people of India and Pakistan to achieve near unanimity. The Pakistan-India Peoples Solidarity Conference, held in New Delhi on July 12, was a rare show of solidarity between the people of Pakistan and India. Delegates at the conference from both India and Pakistan had gathered to send a common signal to the leaders of the two countries, that the people are not willing to wait any longer for peace. The message that the conference sent out was unambiguous:
"For over half a century now the people of India and Pakistan have borne the burden of hostilities between the two states. We, the representatives of numerous civil society groups, which have endeavoured for years to reform relations between India and Pakistan welcome the summit between General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and urge that they seriously engage in a sustained dialogue. The resources of the two countries must be transferred from bombs to books, from submarines to schools, from missiles to medicines, from frigates to food, from runways for bombers to railroads for people. The two leaders must also pledge to eliminate the terrifying nuclear menace that threatens the people of the entire South Asian region and the whole world."
The conference was supported and endorsed by over 300 organisations from both sides of the border, representing workers, women, youth, students, intellectuals, scientists and numerous other sections of the people. Prominent peace and human rights activists from Pakistan participated in and addressed the conference. They included Asma Jehangir (former chairperson of Pakistan Human Rights Commission), I A Rehman (director, Pakistan Human Rights Commission), M B Naqvi (Pakistan Peace Coalition), Karamat Ali (director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research), and B M Kutty (joint director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research). Delegates from India included Admiral (Retd) L Ramdas, Rajmohan Gandhi, Kuldip Nayyar, Nirmala Deshpande, Syeda Hamid, and Yusuf Tarigami.
The tone of the conference was set in the inaugural plenary where Admiral Ramdas, Kuldip Nayyar, Nirmala Deshpande, Asma Jehangir and I A Rehman, among others, emphasised that peaceful relations between India and Pakistan are an imperative if we desire economic and social progress in the region. They gave moving descriptions of the craving for cordial relations expressed by common people on both sides of the border. The conference discussed three major themes in parallel sessions ---establishment and strengthening of democracy in both the countries, restoration of peace in Kashmir, and Nuclear weaponisation.
DEMOCRACY IN INDIA AND PAKISTAN
The concluding plenary discussed and endorsed the declarations prepared at the three parallel sessions. The sessions rapporteurs --- Prabir Purkayastha, Sonia Jabbar and Praful Bidwai --- presented the deliberations of the respective sessions. The declaration prepared in the session on democracy stated:
"We affirm that peace, democracy and justice are indivisible. Hostilities between India and Pakistan have dangerously fuelled religious fundamentalisms and national chauvinisms. The support extended to these forces by the Indian and Pakistani states seriously undermines democracy, the rights of the working people, marginalised communities, minorities and women, and threaten intellectual freedom and free speech. We call for Pakistans return to participatory democracy and representative rule based on the principles of non-exclusion of any section of society. We also call for the strengthening of democracy in all parts of India to attain same objective. These acts are crucial for a lasting peace between the two countries. We call on the two leaders to recognise that todays needs and tomorrows great possibilities are more important than yesterdays sad injuries, and that old mindsets need to change for new times."
PEACE IN KASHMIR
The declaration on Kashmir stated:
"The Kashmir issue is not only a territorial dispute between the states but involves the people of Jammu and Kashmir (which includes Jammu, Kashmir, Gilgit, Baltistan, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur and Ladakh). Therefore, a just and democratic resolution of the Kashmir dispute demands the involvement of the people on both sides of LoC in a non- sectarian solution. A Kashmir solution can work only in the atmosphere of Pakistan-India friendship, which this summit must guarantee.
"For fifty-four years the governments of India and Pakistan have not only failed to resolve the Kashmir dispute, but have also been responsible for grave human rights violations. Let all sides reflect upon the tremendous suffering in Jammu and Kashmir caused by the denial of political, social, economic and human rights by India and Pakistan; therefore the full democratic and political rights must be granted to the people in all these areas. The Agra summit should focus attention on the plight of the widows and half widows, the orphans, the bodily wounded, the psychologically traumatised, the socially ostracised, and the physically uprooted --- irrespective of religious, ethnic or political background."
The declaration on nuclear weaponisation said:
"The nuclear weapons programmes of India and Pakistan have heightened mutual tensions and placed the entire South Asian region in grave danger. The two countries must commit themselves to total elimination of nuclear weapons in the world and to the complete dismantlement and destruction of their nuclear weapons and associated systems and return to the global agenda for disarmament."
DEMANDS TO BE ADDRESSED
The conference ended by endorsing a list of demands made of the two governments. The conference urged the two governments to:
1. Withdraw all draconian laws in both countries that violate human rights.
2. While we welcome all measures such as release of fisher-folk, easing of travel restrictions, this must be expanded to allow free movement of people between the two countries, and remove travel and visa restrictions (including police reporting), through a formal agreement between the two governments.
3. Withdraw the order for prior government permission and clearance to hold international meetings, conferences, seminars and workshops.
4. Lift restrictions on exchange of newspapers, magazines, journals, films, etc.
5. Normalise cultural and trade relations between the two countries.
6. Cease hostilities with immediate effect in Kashmir, initiate the process of disengagement of armed forces, and terminate support to armed groups, both state and non-state.
7. Involve the people of both sides of the LoC in finding a democratic, non-sectarian solution to the Kashmir problem.
8. Rehabilitate all those who have been affected by war in Kashmir, particularly women, and create the conditions for the return of all refugees and exiles.
9. Commit to a nuclear freeze. This would entail no further nuclear testing, no development, deployment and induction of nuclear weapons, and no further efforts towards the setting up of command and control systems.
10. Take a principled stand against "missile defence" and for global nuclear restraint measures such as de-alerting and separation of warheads from missiles.
11. Develop a pacifist, non-militaristic, non-masculinist view of national security, which would lead to a mutual reduction in the armed forces, and utilize the freed resources for meeting the peoples social and economic needs. Both governments should also commit themselves to a time-bound programme for the systematic reduction of military spending, both direct and indirect.
12. Agree to complete transparency in their confidence building measures (CBMs).
13. Cease all acts of subversion, overt or covert, as well as hostile propaganda and media campaign against each other.
14. Demilitarise the Siachen Glacier.